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SB 380 — The Proposed Expansion of Assisted Suicide

The Most Rev. Kevin Vann, Bishop of Orange, Urges Action in Opposition to California’s SB 380

August 23, 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord and Friends All,

The readings for this Sunday speak to the connection between doing justice and living in the
presence of the Lord. There are many connections between our laws and care for one another:
questions of war, violence, and welcoming refugees; of the global pandemic, vaccinations and
mask-wearing efforts for love of neighbor; or, as I would like to bring to your attention here –
throwaway culture’s legalization of assisted suicide and our commitment to caring for the whole
person.

Good public policy ought to uphold what the psalmist describes as actions of one who “shall never
be disturbed,” that is, “who harms not his fellow man, nor takes up a reproach against his
neighbor.” Good laws ought to make it easier for people to be good.

SB 380, the California bill which aims to expand access to assisted suicide does the opposite of “do
no harm:” it expands threats to patient safety and incentivizes the wrong responses to patient
care during serious illness or at life’s end.

As you might be aware, we vigorously opposed California’s 2015 legalization of assisted suicide in
the End of Life Options Act. Initially defeated, the Act was brought back and passed through an
unrelated emergency session of the legislature. The Act gained more support from those
otherwise inclined to oppose because of the promised so-called ‘protections’ included for patients.

Each of these limited ‘safeguards’ would be removed if SB 380 passes in its current form: The 15-
day waiting period reduced to 48 hours; No final attestation from the patient that they are not
being coerced but acting on their own desires; The 10-year sunset removed and the End of Life
Action Act enshrined in law without further review.

We already suffer from a lack of data from patients who ask for the End of Life Options Act and
little is reported from CA Dept. of Public Health to legislators or the general public. We don’t know
how many patients using the law are MediCal recipients, how many are receiving appropriate end
of life palliative and hospice care, how many end their lives prematurely for financial reasons, how
many are receiving appropriate mental health care and assessment, how many may be abused or
coerced into making a decision they don’t want, how many experience complications or call for
Emergency Medical Services after taking the drugs, or even why a patient is asking for life ending
drugs in order that we might offer referrals, additional care, and appropriate medical
interventions.

Finally, in over a year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen the devastation
wrought by longstanding health disparities, particularly in Latino communities. Having journeyed
and traveled with so many in their final days and hours, I can personally attest to the reality of
this! Rather than promoting and expanding ‘solutions’ like assisted suicide, the state of California
ought to be promoting and expanding adequate healthcare, including palliative care, and other
social safety nets that provide for the most vulnerable among us.

In the book of James, also in this week’s readings, we are told that part of the definition of
“Religion that is pure and undefiled” is “to care for [the most vulnerable] in their affliction.”
Therefore, I would earnestly invite you to join my brother bishops in California and I, as Pastors,
along with disabilities rights groups and a diverse coalition of community members, in opposing SB
380. Please contact your assembly member today and urge him or her to vote no on SB 380. Visit
the California Catholic Conference action alerts and No On SB 380 websites to learn more.

This is one way, and an important one in this moment, that we can be “doers of the word” and
bear witness to the God of life!

Thank you and be assured of my prayers for you in these challenging days, I remain

Sincerely yours,

The Most Rev. Kevin W. Vann
Bishop of Orange

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